As Parents There Is Nothing More Powerful Than The Stories We Share..
Welcome back to the #BreastfeedingStories guest post series, an opportunity to bring together stories from other mums who have breastfeeding experiences that they would like to share.
This weeks guest post features Zoe from Pumping Mummy who shares her three breastfeeding stories and the wealth of experience she has with pumping and tongue ties.
This time last year we were happily a family of 4 with a pigeon pair (a girl,6 and a boy, 2).
Then in June we found out we were expecting an unexpected baby, in the sense that we weren’t planning to add to our family. It took us a little while to adjust to the prospect of having 3 children but then it all just fell into place and naturally my thoughts turned to feeding due to our previous experiences.
Our eldest wasn’t breastfed for long, I soon became a pumping mummy as she just didn’t latch at birth and struggled the first few days and we had no support due to the time of year (she was born 20/12 discharged 23/12). We had lots if mixed advice in hospital, one midwife saying shields might help and another telling me off for using them. It was a traumatic birth so some of the difficulties were chalked up to that (blood transfusions, unable to have skin to skin, and not being able to hold her for the first 5 hours). I even used a pump in hospital and syringe fed colostrum, but she had some formula as she was too exhausted to try and feed. We went home not really knowing what we were doing and we were advised to top up after she lost weight. I went and bought a pump and started pumping as although I had milk there, she just couldn’t get it.
We topped up with one formula feed a day until I bought a better pump at 3 months and by 4 months she was having all my milk. It’s not easy as you are in effect doing both types of feeding which requires a strict routine of pumping at set times. I found an amazing book called “Exclusively Pumping to Feed Your Baby” by Stephanie Casemore which became my bible. Once I realised this could work long term it made total sense.
I set up “Pumping Mummies” on Baby Centre after a couple of months as I found it extremely lonely not breastfeeding but not formula feeding, feeling in between and not belonging in either group. Our health visitor kept telling me my milk would dry up and I heard every myth going! A lot of the information I managed to find on pumping talked about breastfeeding too, so I started gathering resources and sharing them in the Baby Centre group which turned into a wonderful community. Without it I wouldn’t have made it to 21 months of exclusively pumping, finding it difficult to stop in the end after such a tough start.
It wasnt until our daughter was 18 months old that I discovered she had a tongue tie, the tricky posterior type that’s not easy to diagnose. We saw a pediatric consultant who advised to leave it as it wasn’t causing any issues, although it did as she got older – stalled growth, enlarged tonsils, enlarged adenoids, sleep disruption by coughing.
Roll on 4 years to our next baby and I was prepared for a tongue tie this time, knowing it has a genetic basis. I knew the signs, the symptoms and what to do about it. NHS provisions and pathways vary widely by area and I didn’t have faith that if baby had one it would be firstly spotted, and then secondly treated quickly. So I contacted an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) beforehand and she was ready to come out when baby was born. The birth was far better than our first; no pain relief, immediate skin to skin, in fact he stayed on me the entire time we were in hospital. Feeding initially seemed fine. I was aware of newborn feeding behaviours so constantly fed him, but by day 6 I was sore and getting damaged nipples. Baby had also lost weight so I called the IBCLC and she came out the next day and snipped a posterior tongue tie. Feeding took a while to click mainly due to me having over supply, causing deep tissue blockages, but he gained weight at pace after an initial drop. The IBCLC also works with an osteopath so we took him for sessions and had follow ups with the IBCLC. Eventually things settled at some point around 3-4 months. I was also pumping again and donating the excess to other families and did so until C was 18 months.
I wanted to do natural term feeding with him, i.e. letting him decide to stop. We didn’t co sleep particularly, and at around 8 months he went into his own room and he slept through mostly feeding once in the night. We got to last year, still feeding two or three times a day/night at 2.5 years. He stopped in my pregnancy with our surprise baby at around 18-20 weeks which I was both glad and sad about. Glad due to the painful nipples and feeding aversions, but sad that it wasn’t really down to him to stop. He stopped as milk can dry up or change taste in pregnancy as your body gets ready to grow and feed a new baby. It was fairly simple, I didn’t offer it and he didn’t ask. In fact it was via feeding I thought I could be pregnant as the usual ovulation sensitivity of my nipples didn’t stop and then my period didn’t arrive! It’s another myth that you can’t get pregnant whilst breastfeeding. My periods came back both times at 4 months postpartum, very annoyingly. I had hoped exclusively breastfeeding would have meant it stayed away longer than when I exclusively pumped but no!
So I thought third time round we would be even more prepared and arranged private local support to check the baby for a tie ASAP after birth as the seven day delay last time caused damage that took months to properly heal. The birth was even more straight forward and very quick with him being borm 15 minutes after we arrived. The hospital checked but there was no obvious visible tie, which means no anterior tie but posterior ties cannot always be seen and a full suck assessment is necessary to diagnose this type by someone extremely knowledgable about ties. However I had suspicions based on the cupping or spooning of his tongue when he cried. Alexis from The Nest came to check within 12hrs of birth and confirmed that he did have one that she thought would impact feeding. I then arranged an appointment with the IBCLC and had his snipped at 3 days old along followed by osteopathy which can help with feeding.
We still had issues with weight loss, but it followed exactly the same pattern as before with the big gain coming between days 23-28 which led us to finally being discharged by the midwives at day 28. Feeding has definitely been easier the third time round due to being more prepared, more knowledgable and working earlier with our IBCLC to prevent the deep blockages in the milk ducts. However it’s not been easy. My confidence was knocked when a midwife said “I hope it’s not knocked your confidence” which wasnt up until that point! My husband is a great support and knows how important breastfeeding is to us and our success is also down to this. It is crucial to have positive support around you as well as being aware of myths, and to be aware of normal newborn feeding behaviours. In the early days and weeks I regularly checked the kellymom.com website for reassurance.
Another thing about being our third baby is that life is often so busy. It took me a few weeks to realise that feeding quality had declined, baby was constantly on the breast, fussing and was showing typical growth spurt behaviour but wasn’t stopping. I asked Alexis to come and check and she said that J’s tongue tie had in some way reformed. This can be scar tissue or because more comes forward after the initial snip. So off we went to see Ann and Simon after a few more weeks as it was tricky trying to arrange it over Easter as we were away. The snip itself was more stressful as he was older (14wks), it bled quite a bit but he did latch after calming down and that helped stop the bleeding. We had a fractious night when he refused to latch quite a few times probably as it was painful and also strange for him having this tongue working differently. It has since taken another couple of weeks for things to settle down. J seems more content and happy between feeds, is feeding better and is less fussy.
Trusting instincts are key, I knew something wasn’t right and again could trust those we had around us in terms of support so knew it was the right decision. I wish it could be easy and plain sailing for us, in fact I often said this in my head at tough times – why can’t it be easy?! But I still wouldn’t hesitate to breastfeed despite these issues as it’s just the way we want to go, it really is that simple.
Useful Tongue Tie Resources & Books
“The Politics of Breastfeeding” its hugely enlightening around feeding and many of the issues we face around infant feeding
“Breastfeeding After Not Breastfeeding” which goes through some of the emotions and I found it really helpful.
Useful Tongue Tie Pointers
- If someone checks your baby for tongue tie just by looking in their mouth they aren’t qualified to check for tongue tie
- There is no one title for who is qualified to check for a tongue tie. It may be a midwife, a health visitor, a breastfeeding consultant, an IBCLC
- You cannot tell how much a tie will impact as baby/child grows
- Snipping a tie doesn’t always solve feeding issues immediately
- Sometimes a tie isn’t snipped correctly or deep enough or it can reattach (scar tissue)
If you’ve got a breastfeeding story you would like to share as part of the series please get in touch with me at email@example.com or on Twitter. I’d love to help you share your #BreastfeedingStories.